Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Baking and Braces

Summer break began for the boys on Monday (Labor Day was late this year). I'd been off for almost two weeks already, but had filled my few child-free mornings running around touring preschools, getting immunization forms filled out for me and various other little things to prepare for fall.

We started off the break by sleeping in and not yelling at kids to stay on task, then walking to our local library branch for the first time and signing up for the summer reading program. I love that the branch is in walking distance - the only reason we hadn't been already is because we mostly check out Kindle books these days. But sometimes Gareth enjoys having physical books, especially when you're talking comic books, so I'm guessing we'll be back at the library a few times this summer. Then an afternoon swim lesson where the head instructor told me I really should get Mal going with lessons. I told her that won't happen until I'm out of school at this point. I doubt Gareth will get anymore lessons while I'm in this program either.

Today we couldn't sleep in because Gareth had an early appointment to get braces put on. While waiting for his appointment to start he played with the toddler toy. Mal played with the display toothbrush and teeth (he's obsessed with the teeth models they have there).

Didn't take nearly as long as I expected, probably because he only has them on his front teeth right now. He chose red and dark blue because those are his favorite colors. They go nicely with the upcoming holiday as well.

They even gave him a snazzy electric toothbrush, which he's super excited about, so maybe he'll be good about brushing his teeth for a little while. Mal was getting a bit whiny (he wanted to go into the room where all the teeth are, but some other people were having a consult in there), so they gave him a little stuffed sea animal. At first he chose a crab. Then decided he wanted a shark. Then at the end he wanted a "goldfish". He insisted it get it's picture taken as well.

He's spent most of the afternoon whining that he wants to take the fish back and get the crab instead. Mal is in a constant state of buyer's remorse over every decision he makes.

Gareth hasn't complained about pain much yet. He did mention that his teeth were hurting a bit around lunchtime, but otherwise seems to be doing fine.

We decided that Gareth should do some semi-independent baking and cooking this summer - mostly on his own, but with us around in case of questions and to ensure the house doesn't burn down. The goal is for him to bake cookies or something similar a few times and to make a simple dinner one night per week. Tonight he's going to make pasta for us. This afternoon he made homemade Oreos - he'll make the frosting to fill them tonight after dinner. He managed to crack four eggs into the mixing bowl and not have to dig out any shells - a first for him. I helped shape some of the cookies, just so the project wouldn't take all day, but otherwise he worked on his own, with occasional advice from me. Hopefully by summer's end he'll feel comfortable going start to finish on his own.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Food Science, Part IV

Our final unit was on leaveners. The first exercise focused on different measuring techniques for flour and sugars and how using measuring cups/spoons will get you different weights, so is less consistent than using a scale.

Experiment two was on yeast. We had to set up multiple bowls with water of varying temperatures and with varying things added. So cold water with and without sugar, warm water plain, with sugar, and with salt, and hot water. Then observe how the active dry yeast responded over time. Warm water with sugar works best, hot water kills the yeast, and all the others had little to no activity.

The third experiment we used chemical leavener. When making muffins we had to dish out batter after various numbers of strokes. Then we had to make up a small batch with either no egg, no sugar, or using whole wheat flour. Obviously, putting batter in tins before the ingredients are fully mixed will result in sub-par muffins. This experiment also dealt with gluten development and how that impacts the final product. I did the no egg variation.

L-R: Fewer strokes to overbeaten

Ideal muffins have a rounded top, not a domed top

The long tunnels on the interior are not ideal and indicate overmixing

No egg

The no egg variation actually wasn't all that bad. Took less time to cook and the batter was really thick and not smooth at all on the surface when cooked, but the taste wasn't too bad.

Our final project was to create our own recipe for a dish. We had to use at least 3 ingredients, each of which was supposed to demonstrate a principle that we'd studied during the quarter. I made what I called "Spicy Peanut Chicken and Vegetables over Brazilian Rice". So just a peanut sauce/marinade, stir-fry the chicken and veggies and serve over rice. We had to serve it to ourselves and at least one other person and have everyone who ate it evaluate it for taste, texture, appearance, etc.

Brazilian Rice:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 ½ cups jasmine rice
3 ¾ cups water

Bring water to a boil. In a separate saucepan heat the oil. Add garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Add rice to pan and sauté until lightly toasted and somewhat translucent. When the water is boiling, pour it over the rice. Cover and simmer the rice 18 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

5-7 Thai chilies
3 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ cup tamari
3 Tbsp. peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. Sugar

Food process the chilies and garlic (or crush with a mortar/pestle or bottom of a cup). Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Make one batch for marinade, make another for extra sauce.

Chicken and Vegetables:
2 chicken breast halves, thinly sliced
½ red bell pepper, sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup small-medium broccoli florets
Canola oil

Combine marinade and chicken in resealable bag and let marinate in refrigerator for 1-3 hours. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon canola oil to pan. Add chicken to skillet, cooking until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan. Add extra oil to pan if needed. Add vegetables to pan, cooking until crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes. Return chicken to pan and heat through. Add extra sauce to pan, to taste. Serve over rice.

For our report we had to include pictures and discuss our ingredient selection/preparation and the scientific principles employed. The sauce was tasty and the only thing I'd change is using more Thai chilies in future - once combined with the rice and other stuff the sauce loses a lot of heat. The broccoli is perfect for this kind of recipe because the florets hold sauce really well. Adding red bell pepper and carrots makes for a vibrant dish.

Ryan's already asked for more of the peanut sauce to be made. Guess I'll have to have him practice making it this summer so he can make it during the next couple years if he wants to.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Graduate School

Back in December I submitted an application to the MS in Nutrition and the GCPD programs at UW. Then I waited and waited to hear something. I finally got an email saying they wanted to schedule a phone interview. Yay, exciting! So I did the phone interview, felt I did horribly (having never done a phone interview before), and figured if it were me making the decision I wouldn't accept me based on that interview. But hope springs eternal or something, so I still eagerly waited to hear something. Finally an envelope came. I was accepted into the MS program! I was wait-listed for the GCPD program. Cue sadness and depression and general feeling horrible about myself, despite knowing when I applied that there were only 12 spots in this program and that my chances might not be great.

I had to figure out what to do. There is no route to the RD at UW except through the GCPD program. And while you can find jobs with just the MS in Nutrition, I came away from talking to those in the field pretty confident that it would be much more difficult to get a job without the RD. Lots of people encouraged me to start the MS anyway and then reapply. But they don't give any particular priority to those students, though those students do have the advantage of getting to know the faculty a bit before reapplying. Sometimes spots open up in the summer or mid-year, but they obviously couldn't predict if that would happen. They can only offer those spots to people in the MS or MPH programs, so if I declined or deferred the MS offer I'd be out of the running should that happen. But that stuff wasn't enough to convince me that the financial risk of starting without knowing I'd get into the GCPD was worth it. I took lots of time to come to my decision, partly hoping that I'd get in off the wait-list in that time, and the day before the decision deadline I emailed the MS program and asked if I could defer my acceptance for a year. And they confirmed that they'd taken care of that, and I went on my less-than-merry way.

I started figuring out what the next year would look like, trying to make some connections so I could volunteer with dietitians in a clinic and hoping I could maybe get some part-time work as a dietary aide through someone from one of my prereq. classes. And I told people in my orchestra that I'd be happy to join the orchestra board next year. I looked on the bright side - I knew some things that the program had wanted to see in my application and had some ideas of how to rewrite my essays. And I figured that if I got in the next time around this way Mal would be in Kindergarten when I was starting the program, so the childcare thing would maybe be easier to figure out. But I wasn't about to get hopeful that I'd get in on my second try, so I was also trying to come up with backup plans (learn to code? take a few more prereqs and a different entrance exam and try for pharmacy school? just accept that I will fail at doing anything career-wise with my life?). Despite how that previous sentence makes it sound, I was feeling pretty good about what I had lined up for the next year.

And then this past Friday I opened up my email after finishing teaching a Cooking Matters class and saw an email from the UW program. I'm really not sure what I thought it was. I've been taking an online class through UW this quarter, so it kind of processed as something from that, even though it clearly wasn't. Opened it up and saw that they were offering me a spot in the GCPD program for the fall. And still couldn't process it. So I forwarded the email to Ryan. And then he didn't instantly respond, so I called him. And we chatted briefly and then I drove home. I called my mom and texted some with Ryan and just tried to process it all. But then I realized the offer was contingent on having accepted the MS offer, so I was a little confused as to why I'd been sent the offer in the first place since I'd deferred.

I emailed the MS program and the GCPD program asking if it was possible to change my status. They emailed back and informed me that my deferral request wasn't fully processed yet, so I was eligible to accept both offers still. Weird, that request was made quite a while ago. But okay, worked out in my favor. So now I was processing the fact that entering this program in the fall is a very real possibility. Text with my sister and text some local friends. And talk to my mom some more. And was irrationally annoyed that Ryan wasn't home yet - not with him, just with the fact that instantaneous transport isn't a thing we are capable of, because I really needed to talk with him and figure this out together.

When he did get home we both agreed that I needed to go for it. I took some time today to start figuring out some financial stuff before officially accepting (though sending an email doesn't feel all that official). I'm still having a hard time believing this is happening. I've read the initial email multiple times, just to make sure it actually says what I think it says. And even today, it took a few hours to hear back after I emailed the acceptance, so a part of me couldn't help wondering if it was all some big mistake and they were scrambling around trying to figure out how they accidentally offered someone a spot they don't have. But eventually both programs emailed back and now I've been inundated with things to do since I have to play a bit of catch-up. And it's still sinking in a bit, and I'm more than a little nervous about balancing school and family and orchestra, but I'm definitely starting to get excited as well.